29 November 1957

Boeing NB-52A 52-003 with a North American Aviation X-15 56 under its right wing at Edwards Air Force Base. (NASA DFRC EC62 0099)
Boeing NB-52A 52-003 with a North American Aviation X-15 under its right wing, at Edwards Air Force Base, 31 December 1961. (NASA)

29 November 1957: The third production Boeing B-52A-1-BO Stratofortress strategic bomber, 52-003, was flown from Boeing’s Seattle plant to the North American Aviation facility at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, to be modified to carry the new X-15 hypersonic research rocketplane.

Modifications began on 4 February 1958. A pylon was mounted under the bomber’s right wing. A large notch was cut into the trailing edge of the inboard flap for the X-15’s vertical fin. A 1,500 gallon (5,678 liter) liquid oxygen tank was installed in the bomb bay.

The X-15 was attached to this underwing pylon by three standard Air Force bomb shackles. (NASA)
The X-15 was attached to this underwing pylon by three remotely-actuated standard Air Force bomb shackles. (NASA)
To allow clearance for teh X-15's vertical fin, a notch had to be cut in the trailing edge of the inboard right flap. (NASA)
To allow clearance for the X-15’s vertical fin, a notch had to be cut in the trailing edge of the inboard right flap. (NASA)

A station for a launch operator was installed on the upper deck of the B-52 at the former electronic countermeasures position. A series of control panels allowed the panel operator to monitor the X-15’s systems, provide electrical power, and to keep the rocketplane’s liquid oxygen tank full as the LOX boiled off during the climb to launch altitude. The operator could see the X-15 through a plexiglas dome, and there were two television monitors.

NB-52 liquid oxygen panel. (NASA)
NB-52 liquid oxygen panel. (NASA)

After modifications were completed at Palmdale, 52-003 was flown to Edwards Air Force Base, 14 November 1958.

NB-52A 52-003 is on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.

A North American Aviation F-100 Super Sabre chase plane follows NB-52A 52-003 prior to launch of an X-15. (NASA)
A North American Aviation F-100F Super Sabre chase plane checks an X-15 as its APUs are activated just prior to being released from NB-52A 52-003. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 thoughts on “29 November 1957

  1. Just watched the movie X-15 last night. It has some great footage of the NB-52 and the X-15 during flight. The story is a little screwy, but still watchable.

  2. Hi Bryan,
    To think that we its not even been 120 years since we have gained reasonable control of our travel through the skies!
    For all of its triumphs and tragedies, I love how your site pays homage to all, be they great and brave pioneers, right through to the unfortunate participants and witnesses to our most shocking tragedies. Good or bad, I read and learn something new them each day. Thankyou for your effort and devotion.

    With that in mind, I’d like to suggest additional article for your Nov28-29 post:
    Pilot Officer Rawdon ‘Ron’ Middleton VC, Royal Australian Air Force, Nov 28-29, 1942

    These websistes offer a good telling of his tale:

    I can also provide the book references:
    Strike Hard, Strike Sure, Pg 86-96 (ISBN 9780850529630 / 0850529638)
    Victoria Cross – Australias Finest and the Battles They Fought Pg 230 (ISBN 9781740662888 / 1740662881)

    Such acts of incredible bravery need to be shared.

    Kind Regards

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